MATT SORUM’S FIERCE JOY – Stratosphere (2014)
Over a storied career as the driving force behind The Cult and later hard rock legends Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, drummer Matt Sorum has shared a hand in some of the world’s most recognizable music.
Today, Sorum finds himself on the other side of the big console as he has taken to producing several acts as well as working on his own solo project under the banner MATT SORUM’S FIERCE JOY and its debut “Stratosphere”, where he takes the mike for the first time, while also playing guitar and piano.
A fourteen track effort with a smattering of different styles and tastes, “Stratosphere” is a winner from start to finish if you can appreciate variety on rootsy rock.
Sorum says: “I wrote most of this stuff on acoustic guitar by myself and then had some collaboration with another guy and we would mess around with a couple of acoustics and basically play it like that. My opinion is that if a song isn’t good on an acoustic guitar then it is not a good song.
Even when we used to write with Guns N’ Roses if the songs didn’t sound good on an acoustic guitar without all that other stuff on it we knew it was not going to be a good song. So I wrote a lot of this album like that and on piano and once I had all of the instrumentation it became pretty organic”.
The opening cut “The Sea”, features some great steel guitar sounds wrapped in a decidedly Americana package. Even though Sorum is from the west coast, the opening keyboard riff has a Jersey shore feel. A neat opener quickly giving way to a totally different vibe in the Beatle-esque offering, “What Ziggy Says” really catches ones attention. Reminiscent of vintage Sgt. Pepper material and a tribute to David Bowie, the entrancing sounds and circus effects are reminiscent of past psychedelia, an abrupt change from the opener but unique enough to sustain interest in the rest of this offering.
A drum and bass beat kicks off “For The Wild Ones” and sets the tone for this somewhat intricate tune, and in my opinion, a highlight on the CD. A snarling vocal that would make Billy Idol proud permeates throughout this one, featuring lyrics and an attitude with a definite edginess and an ‘80s feel present.
“Good Bye To You” is nothing like that old Scandal hit from the glory days of MTV; it is more modern-based than any of the others on the disc. A haunting guitar line seems to represent the sense of loss that Sorum conveys in the lyric nicely done in a pop style yet not contradicting to the message.
Once again, great guitar work reinforces the more somber “Gone”. The slow keyboard intro and halting vocal phrases serve as foreshadowing for the feel of this composition. The dynamics employed here would make this a great fit for either film or television, the kind of scene where the main character reflects back upon or seeks answers as they look toward their future without their loved one.
“Lady of the Stone” seems to be an indictment of the world and/or political climate of today. A somewhat Celtic feel is present due to string parts that are intertwined with the verses which make up this dark piece. This is one of several on the disc that makes one think or give a second listen to in order to get the message.
“Ode to Nick Drake” revisits the acoustic Americana / folk feel. The use of strings assists in painting a picturesque summer time setting in conjuncture with the once again, nice lyrical content. This is one of several off of the CD where visuals are easily attained as Sorum adds storyteller to his lengthy resume.
“Blue” is a short, upbeat ditty that despite its offbeat tone is a toe tapper with an interesting bridge. The pace is next slowed by the piano heavy “Josephine”. Using only a background of strings the song once again evokes plenty of emotion from its creator and is well presented.
“Land of the Pure” has a Middle Eastern feel. Images of Morocco or Sultans commanding another dance for their entertainment spring instantly to mind as this song changes gears at mid-point with nice instrumentation and foreign female vocals. The blues are next up in another dark selection called “Killers N Lovers” with vintage organ work.
“The Lonely Teardrop” utilizes a dripping water effect on and off though this acoustic piece. Barely noticeable background instrumentation and effects add a different feel to the arpeggio of the six strings.
Matt Sorum’ takes a decidedly different approach to the writing and recording of “Stratosphere”, which showcases his ability to pen and perform honest, relevant music across multiple musical genres.
Overall, it is a unique collection of music. There are upbeat, slow, and some very dark lyrical content, done just well enough where Sorum nicely conveys his emotions, yet leaves much open for interpretation.
01 – Intro (Stratosphere) Pt. 1
02 – The Sea
03 – What Ziggy Says
04 – For the Wild Ones
05 – Goodbye to You
06 – Gone
07 – Lady of the Stone
08 – Ode to Nick Drake
09 – Blue
10 – Josephine
11 – Land of the Pure
12 – Killers N Lovers
13 – The Lonely Teardrop
14 – Outro (Stratosphere) Pt. 2
Matt Sorum – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Drums
Damon Fox – Organ, Mellotron, Wurlitzer, Mini Moog
Paul III – Bass, Fretless Bass
Alex Torodov – Keyboards
Lanny Cordola – Guitar, Composer
Randy Ray Mitchell – Guitar, Slide Guitar
Scott Breadman – Percussion
Joe Sublett, Lee Thornburg – Horns
Cameron Stone, Lili Haydn – Strings
Abby Loce, Sussan Deyhim – Vocals
Ace Harper – Background Vocals
thanks to Danny Coleman
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